Summary: God delivers us from the cycle of disobedience, defeat, and distress when we remember him all the year long.
We could summarize the book of Judges with one word: “Forgetting.” Here appear some of the Bible’s most colorful characters and interesting stories, but the theme of “forgetting God” unites all.
In his departing messages to Israel, Moses warned of this very real temptation. He mentions it explicitly at least six times:
Deuteronomy 4.9: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children….”
Deuteronomy 4.23: “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you….”
Deuteronomy 6.12: “[T]ake care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
And three times in Deuteronomy 8 (verses 11, 14 and 19): “11 Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes…. 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”
After these sermons, Moses dies, leaving Joshua to take the people into the promised land. Joshua does so, and then Judges picks up the narrative. Unfortunately, the people do not heed Moses’ warning; they forget the Lord who bought them, and they find the suffering of rebellion a great misery.
As we look toward a new year, God challenges us, in this passage, to remember him in all things.
[Read Judges 2.6-3.6. Pray.]
On Friday we watched the film, Glory Road, the 1966 story of how the integrated Texas Western basketball team defeated Adolph Rupp’s all-white Kentucky Wildcats. At a time when schools in the Southeastern Conference refused scholarships to black students, Don Haskins shook up the world by coaching the first team in NCAA history to win a title with five starting black players.
Young Haskins had seen racism first-hand when his teenage friend, Herman Carr, was denied a chance to play college basketball simply because he was black. Recalling the event that forged his understanding of 1940s racial realities, Haskins said, “When I left and went to college at Oklahoma A&M, Herman couldn’t go anywhere. I felt bad. We worked together at the feed store. I drank out of the white water fountain, and he drank out of the other one. It bothered me.” When Haskins arrived at Texas Western in 1961, the school already had some history of recruiting black athletes. Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, a holdover recruit, was on Haskins’ first team. Still, Haskins intensified the issue by intentionally recruiting and starting many more black players than had ever been done.
As a result, the game between staid and traditional Kentucky and upstart Texas Western provided a chance for Haskins to both win and make a statement. He played only black kids on a day when bigots still said publically that people who were not white were inferior. Now, many historians say it was the most important basketball game ever, a key turning point in integration and increased equality in athletics.
If we knew in advance what events were pivotal, which moment would be our most important, we could prepare, get ready to do the right thing. But it does not work that way. Haskins knew the issue was important, certainly, but it was only retrospect which revealed that night as the turning point in the fight for respect for black athletes.
None of us know what turning points 2009 will reveal. So how do we prepare so that we respond well when the situation presents itself? I believe God provided this passage in Judges to help us do just that.
1. We Must Remember that God is Good (Judges 2.6-7)
Samuel (who is traditionally thought to have written this book) wants us to reflect on the goodness of God. He signals that by directly connecting the events that happen in Judges with those of Joshua. The book of Joshua tells of God’s faithful promises fulfilled. Let’s go back a couple of generations from the time of Judges and get our bearings.
Moses was the greatest leader Israel had ever known. He was the redeemer from Egyptian slavery and the Lawgiver from the hand of God. So when Moses died, we naturally wonder what will happen to God’s people.
Then we find, in the book of Joshua, that God is still alive, and God leads Israel into the promised land by raising up a new leader, Joshua. But now he dies. Are the promises still good? Is God still faithful? Does he still love his people? These questions would be asked around dinner tables and in the marketplaces – especially during the time of the Judges, when God’s displeasure is evident and his favor withdrawn.